The Girls Are Outside This Summer – They’re Sober Too

Bottomless Brunch. Happy Hour. Day Party. Repeat?

Summer is undoubtedly the season for wearing less and going out more. In the midst of hotter weather, less clothing, and more places to be it’s rare to find ourselves not sipping on a drink at the same time. 

And if you’re not? Best believe the question “Why aren’t you drinking tonight? is coming quicker than you can even get close to a bartender at a crowded bar.

In culture today, drinking and partying are sold as a two for $1 special making it nearly inconceivable to imagine partaking in one without the other. It doesn’t help that the bondage of the two has placed drinking on a cultural pedestal, normalizing it as the antidote to cure any moment of discomfort. Thus, we find ourselves drinking more whether that’s by choice, by habit, and at our worst, by expectation. 

Social anxiety? Take a shot.

He’s not calling you back?  Take a shot. 

Work stressing you out? Take a shot. 

The onus isn’t all on us. The relationship between drinking, partying and ourselves is a programming most of us had no hand in creating. When we’re young, we drink out of curiosity.

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When we’re adolescents, we drink out of rebellion; when we’re adults, we drink to escape. 

The harsh reality is, a mix of personality types and whatever life decides to throw at you determines the evolution of the latter for better or for worse.

For young black women, our dynamic with alcohol is even more complicated. How we choose to drink or not to drink becomes a marker of character others conveniently get to bypass. If you like to drink, you’re a sloppy party girl. If you don’t, you’re a buzzkill. 

Most of us have either picked or been given a persona to stick to – before we’ve even asked ourselves the question: Why am I really drinking? According to a report from Berenberg Research, Gen Z is drinking less than previous generations, citing “the risks that come with drinking from poor decision making to addiction to negative health impacts” as the main reasons to sip less.

The combination of huge cultural shifts towards wellness and rampant inflation, the average cost of a cocktail in NYC is $18, many young Black women are re-evaluating their relationship with alcohol and the need to sip this summer. 

“Taking a step back from drinking is a statement. It says I like how I present myself naturally,” says 26-year-old Brooklyn resident Alycia. “The new question I ask myself is – is this drink worth how I am going to feel the next day?”

In the past, even a murmur or slight interest in sobriety would either get you the side-eye or the presumption you’re wrapped up in addiction. Now? Terms like “sober-curious” are stirring up meaningful conversations online.  With over 900M+ searches on TikTok, the trend welcomes a new wave of discourse from women sharing how they’re stepping away from alcohol while also still savoring every moment of the summer. 

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“Leaning into mocktails makes being sober-curious so much easier,” 29-year-old Los Angeles resident Sequoia tells GU. “I find it empowering to try to find that “fun side” of myself that comes out without depending on alcohol to do it. A lot of my friends are also cutting back on alcohol so it makes it a lot easier for me. I don’t feel left out at parties.”

Although the trend offers inspiration, we can’t expect the journey toward drinking mindfully to look the same for everyone, and it shouldn’t. When the liquid courage leaves our system, and we’re left with the ruins of our reality, it becomes clear that alcohol isn’t to blame for all the inevitable missteps in your 20s but merely a magnifying glass, illuminating what’s already in us, whether we like that person or not. If young women want to have a drink to enjoy themselves, we shouldn’t be demonized for it.

The problem is the aftermath we so often omit from the narrative once we find ourselves in a boozy cycle. The days to come you spend hungover, the ruthless anxiety, and the looming regret you feel looking at a gruesome credit card bill because you wanted to cover that last round of shots. When do we take the reins? 

For Gen Z black women, the decision to drink less isn’t much about alcohol at all. It’s about choice. The decision to choose what works for you and what doesn’t, the autonomy to stand firm in what feels good to you contrary to what’s popular, and making sense of what our personal limits are. After all black women are the culture and we make the party, the party doesn’t make us. 

Whether you choose to spend your summer sipping on a cute cocktail at happy hour or opting out for something with less bite, give yourself the room to make sure any choice you’re making is a choice of your own.  

“Drinking less allows me to be more intentional about when I do drink, prepare, and take care of myself,” 24-year-old Brooklyn resident Taiye tells GU. “I’m still outside, I’m just not afraid to let it be known I’ll either be having one drink or I won’t be participating at all. I feel no shame in expressing my limit.”

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